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UPDATE 3-Imperial Oil posts quarterly loss, warns pandemic impact will drag on

(Adds details from earnings call)

CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd , one of Canada’s biggest oil producers and refiners, posted a quarterly loss on Tuesday and warned that the hit to fuel demand resulting from the coronavirus pandemic may drag on well into 2021.

Along with the rest of Canada’s oil and gas industry, Imperial endured a very difficult 2020. Crude prices recovered in the final months of the year amid optimism over global vaccine rollouts, but fuel demand remains muted.

Imperial, majority-owned by U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp , reported a quarterly loss of C$1.15 billion, or C$1.56 per share, hit by a C$1.17 billion impairment charge on some abandoned unconventional assets in Alberta.

Imperial shares were last down 0.2% on the Toronto Stock Exchange at C$25.04.

“Demand continues to be challenged by the ongoing pandemic and we are seeing the impact of community lockdowns in certain parts of Canada, particularly Ontario and Quebec,” Imperial Chief Executive Brad Corson told an earnings call. “Looking forward there continues to be a high degree of uncertainty due to the various provincial and federal lockdowns, as well as travel restrictions.”

Canada last week tightened travel rules amid concerns about the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants.

Calgary-based Imperial, which owns three refineries in Ontario and Alberta, said its petroleum product sales came in at 416,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter, down 7.4% from the prior quarter.

Production averaged 460,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in the quarter, up 26% from the third quarter, partly due to maintenance work being completed. Imperial’s Kearl oil sands mine in northern Alberta hit a record of 284,000 bpd.

The company’s adjusted income stood at 3 Canadian cents per share in the quarter, missing analysts’ estimates of 8 Canadian cents, according to Refinitiv IBES.

$1 = 1.2810 Canadian dollars Additional reporting by Rithika Krishna, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Steve Orlofsky

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